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Sherpa (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014. “Sherpa” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Felix Media Ply Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Sherpa

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 11, 2016


Directed by Jennifer Peedom

Written by Jennifer Peedom

Produced by Bridget Ikin, John Smithson

Executive Producer: John Maynard, David Griffin, David Gross

Music by Antony Partos

Cinematography by Renan Ozturk, Hugh Miller, Ken Sauls

Edited by Christian Gazal


Every year, Western mountain climbers make news ascending Mount Everest. But the compelling stories of the Sherpas, the Nepalese guides who risk their lives to provide for their families, have gone untold — until now. SHERPA chronicles a fateful 2014 expedition and the tragic avalanche that spurred the Sherpas to make a stand for human rights and respect. SHERPA will forever change the way you look at the world’s most famous mountain — and the brave guides who navigate it.


Sherpa.  They are an ethnic group in eastern Nepal and are the guides that have helped climbers accomplish their Mount Everest expeditions.

The importance of the Sherpa people as guides have been well-documented on film, including the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory to Eric Valli’s documentary “Himalaya” about the life of villagers in the area.

We know that life is difficult, making money is difficult in Nepal.  But while many large expeditions every year on Mount Everest has led to multi-million dollar industry, the government makes the money, while the Sherpa risk their lives by being guides to those on an expedition.

In 2013, the Serpa people showed how they were not subservient people to the foreigners as a fight had broken out.  But what one would not expected is the deadly 2014 expedition due to a tragic avalanche and what came after the fatal expedition.

Documenting events that have happened in the area from 2013-2014, filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew were there to document the expeditions of 2013 and 2014 for her 2015 film, “Sherpa”.

“Sherpa” is a film that follows Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa who has made 21 Mount Everest ascents and is trying to go for the world record.  His family dislikes Phurba taking on this risky job, fearing that he will never come back, but Phurba enjoys it and feels its the only way to make good money.

His latest job is for New Zealand’s Russel Brice who runs one of the more reputable expedition company’s for Mt. Everest, Himex.

Phurba gathers a team of Sherpas to take these foreign climbers up Mt. Everest, but what they are not aware or prepared for is a major ice avalanche which would kill over a dozen Sherpas.

As Brice and his crew feel the expedition must go-on and feels that mountaineering has its risks, for business, he wants to continue with the expedition.

Meanwhile, after the deaths of their own people, the Sherpas stage a protest and in solidarity, want to hit back at the government for their unfair treatment of Sherpa guides who hardly make money versus the government who are pocketing millions from these expeditions.

Will this expedition continue?  Or will there be a resolution among the Sherpa people and their government?


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sherpa” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film is primarily dialogue driven.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear.

If anything, I wish this documentary was released on Blu-ray!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sherpa” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Sherpa – (11:49) Interviews with filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew especially filming a traumatic moment.
  • Deleted Scenes

EXTRAS:

“Sherpa” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet Digital code.


I have watched films, read many articles about the importance of the Sherpa guides in expeditions to Mount Everest.

From the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory which was the first film to document an expedition to Mount Everest, the film would feature a major tragedy.

Fastforward to 2016 and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” not only shows us how expeditions have become big business in Nepal and tensions have grown between westerners and Sherpa.  Peedom’s crew wanted to document this and what she got was more than she expected, with the tragic avalanche of 2014.

Far often, what we read are the challenges of climbing Mount Everest.  The challenges of altitude and finding experienced Sherpas.

But while we have read the communal respect of climbers and the Sherpa, things changed in 2013, which had been detailed in various news sources and publications (read this interview from National Geographic).  And situations became hostile, as customs and miscommunication reared its ugly head.

While, “Sherpa” goes into that and the avalanche tragedy of 2014, this is not a film about how much of a mess things have become due to commercialization and money.  But filmmaker Jennifer Peedom also goes into detail of showing us Nepal culture but paying respect to people such as Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary.  And also, now retired, Sherpa mountaineer Phurba Tashi Sherpa Mendewa (who was featured in the 2009 Discovery Channel series, “Everest: Beyond the Limit”) and learning of the challenges he faces as a father, who’s family wants him to quit being a mountaineer.  But also knowing that when it comes to being a Sherpa guide, it’s the only job that pays well.

The film also features Russel Brice, owner of Himex guide firm responsible for organizing expeditions to Mount Everest.  And the challenges he feels as the middleman of having to work with the Sherpa, especially after the 2014 tragedy and within days, knowing the troubles that surround the Sherpa as many want to continue with the expedition, but were threatened by other Sherpa that if they do so, they would be beaten.

It’s obvious that watching “Sherpa”, there has been lingering tensions as the need of Sherpa guides have grown exponentially and has been a huge business for organizers of expeditions and the Nepal government.  Because of the big money involved, there is a lot of competition, a lot of anger and tensions over lack of pay, lack of government willingness to pay compensation to victims families.

So much has changed and I never knew the extent of tensions and how competitive things are until I watched this documentary.  And the thing is, you can put yourself in the shoes of the Sherpa, Phurba Tashi, Russel Brice or his clients and you can understand what they are going through.

The Sherpa guides are doing a high risk business where there are a number of casualties and they know how much each client pays to be part of an expedition (as of 2016, the estimated range is $60,000 – You can see a financial breakdown here.).  Phurba Tashi is a man who wants to provide for his family and has a passion for the mountains. Russel Brice is a man with a business and his business survives on expeditions but having to please both the Sherpas and his clients.  And the clients, for many, Mount Everest is their dream.  Many save up and sacrifice their job, leave their families for two months to pursue this expensive dream.

You can read about the tensions, but nothing really compares to when you see the tensions up front and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” does a magnificent job of showing us how bad things have gotten in 2013 and 2014.  To make matters worse, in April 2015 was the Nepal Earthquake which killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000.  On Mount Everest, the earthquake would trigger an avalanche that would kill 21.  And to this day, aftershocks in different areas of Nepal have continued.

While how things will go for Mount Everest Expeditions from 2016 and on, no one knows.  But there are obvious issues that have been slowly burning, almost similar to a situation of gentrification in inner cities, between the haves and have nots, things are much more complicated as exhibition organizers want to build a business but work with the Sherpa and their clients.  Clients want to accomplish a dream of climbing Mount Everest and while the government pockets from these expeditions and more Sherpa guides are wanted, thus bringing a new and unknown set of people without experience into the mix, it’s hard to not think that while tensions were elevated in 2013, there is a boiling point that has not yet been fully reached.

And that can be scary.

Overall, Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014.

“Sherpa” is recommended!

 

 

Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is a film that many Godzilla fans have wanted to see released on Blu-ray and DVD.  Especially its uncut/uncensored version.  I absolutely enjoyed this film and if you are a kaiju film fan, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1984 Toho, Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla

YEAR OF FILM: 1984

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Kraken Releasing/Toho

RATED: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Violence and Brief Mild Language)

Release Date: September 13, 2016


Directed by Koji Hashimoto

Written by Hideichi Nagahara

Produced by Norio Hayashi, Kiyomi Kanazawa

Associate Producer: Fumio Tanaka

Executive Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka

Music by Reijiro Koroku

Cinematography by Kazutami Hara

Casting by Tadao Tanaka

Edited by Yoshitami Kuroiwa

Production Design by Akira Sakuragi

Art Direction by Akira Sakuragi

Set Decoration by Akio Tashiro

Costume Design by Kenji Kawasaki


Starring:

Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki

Yasuko Sawaguchi as Naoko Okumura

Yosuke Natsuki as Dr. Hayashida

Shin Takuma as Hiroshi Okumura

Keiju Kobayashi as Prime Minister Mitamura

Eitaro Ozawa as Finance Minister Mitammura

Taketoshi Naito as Takegami, Chief Cabinet Secretary

Mizuho Suzuki as Foreign Minister Emori

Junkichi Orimoto as Director-General of the Defense Agency


With a higher budget and more advanced special effects than any previous film in the series, THE RETURN OF GODZILLA® returns Japan’s greatest monster to his intended role as an epic force of destruction and the film’s spectacular success re-launched the Godzilla® franchise after nearly a decade in suspended animation.

Unfortunately for North American audiences, this direct sequel to the original 1954 feature film has previously only been available in a highly edited version that cut over twenty minutes of original footage and effects, changed key plot points and altered the dark dramatic tone and narrative by inserting additional scenes and humor in an attempt to “Americanize” the film. But now, at long last, the acclaimed kaiju masterpiece finally hits American shores in all its uncut original glory! Get ready for the biggest Godzilla® epic that you’ve never seen as Kraken Releasing unleashes the complete and unedited THE RETURN OF GODZILLA®!


With a string of Godzilla films since the original 1954 film, Toho decided to do a reboot of the Godzilla franchise for its 1984 release.

The 16th film in the Godzilla franchise and the first film in the Heisei series, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” was created to be a direct sequel of the original 1954 film.

So, as many of the Godzilla films became lighter toned and featured Godzilla taking on other kaiju monsters, the 1984 film is a return to the darker tone of the film and featuring Godzilla as the antagonist of Japan.

While the film was released by New World Pictures as “Godzilla 1985” and re-edited to feature footage with Raymond Burr (to connect to the film, “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!”), the original Japanese version will be released for the first time in the US uncut and uncensored courtesy of Kraken Releasing.

The film begins with the crew of the Yahata-Maru Japanese fishing vessel being caught in strong currents after a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island.

As the fishing vessel drifts into shore and the island erupts, a giant monster comes out of the volcano.

A few days later, we see journalist Goro Maki (portrayed by Goro Maki) sailing in the area and spotting the vessel.  As he goes inside, to his shock, he finds nearly everyone killed.

He finds a survivor inside a locker, Hiroshi Okamura (portrayed by Shin Takuma) who has been wounded.  What Goro doesn’t know is inside the boat is a giant Shockirus sea louse which attacks him immediately.  To Goro’s suprise, a sea louse which is usual a few inches long is several feet tall and nearly kills him until he is rescued by Okamura.  Okamura tells him of the huge monster he and the crew had come across.

As Goro and Okamura are rescued, Goro writes an article but his editor refuses to publish it because the huge monster has been reported to be Godzilla and if they publish the news that Godzilla has returned, it may cause widespread panic.  Meanwhile, the Japanese government continues to find out how to protect Japan in case Godzilla attacks, knowing that he needs radiation to recharge.

Meanwhile, when a Russian submarine spots an anomaly in the ocean, it tries to attack it with torpedoes, thinking it may be the Americans.  The anomaly turns out to be Godzilla who destroys the submarine and killing the crew inside it.

This causes the Russians to go on full alert and accuses the Americans and World War III could possibly erupt.  This forces the Japanese government to lessen the tensions by announcing that Godzilla has returned.

As the Japanese, the American and Russian government have their own thoughts of stopping Godzilla, one which the Americans and Russians feel is necessary is to nuke Godzilla, the Japanese government want to find ways to destroy Godzilla their own way.

Professor Makoto Hayashida (portrayed by Yosuke Natsuki), Hiroshi Okumura and his sister Naoko (portrayed by Yasuko Sawaguchi) and Goro Maki try to find ways of stopping Godzilla and observing Godilla being distracted by birds.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government puts their trust into their superweapon, Super X to take on Godzilla.

Can anyone stop the terror of Godzilla?


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic and English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film features quite a bit of action sequences, so there is good use of the surround channels during these moments. Dialogue is crystal clear.

It’s important to note that the film will be available on Blu-ray for those who want the best in picture and audio quality.

The film is presented with optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” comes with the Japanese theatrical promo.


As a fan of kaiju films and also having watched many of the Godzilla films.  May it be from the Showa Series, Heisei Series, Millennium Series to the recent Shin Godzilla release in Japan this year.

While the original film from the Showa timeline that debuted in 1954 still remains my favorite Godzilla film as it introduces us to Godzilla and the terror the behemoth brought to the people of Japan, somehow the films have went to a more lighthearted storyline.

While we would see Godzilla taking on Mothra, King Ghidorah, Biollante, Mechagodzilla to name a few, and also to see Godzilla’s son, Minilla and humans helping Godzilla, while entertaining its own way, it departed from the original dark storyline of the original film.

To remedy that, Toho rebooted the series with “The Return of Godzilla” and is known as the Heisei series (only one Godzilla film was released during this time).  The film is a direct sequel to the 1954 film and ignores the lighthearted films in the series from the Showa era.

And for me, this return of Godzilla was entertaining, especially how it incorporated the real life tensions between the U.S. and Russia during the early 1980’s.  And Godzilla was a true antagonist and we would see the Japanese trying to find ways to defeat Godzilla, but now seeing other countries interfere and wanting to nuke it.  No doubt a message about the nuclear arms race that scared everyone in the early ’80s.

While the film was acquired by New World Pictures, the film was recut and re-dubbed with the addition of American shot scenes with Raymond Burr.  The film was only released in VHS and LD and has not been released on video since.

In 2015, Toho struck a deal with Kraken Releasing to release “The Return of Godzilla” and the version to be released is the uncut/uncensored version and it’s definitely the version of the film that I wanted to see.

As the picture quality and the audio is good as it can get on DVD, for those wanting the best picture quality and lossless audio will want to go for the Blu-ray release of the film.  Included is the Japanese and English dub in 5.1 Surround Sound.  And while I’m not a big fan of ’70s and ’80s English dubbing of kaiju film (or Asian martial arts films), it was great to watch this film in its original Japanese audio presentation.  Unfortunately, there is no major special features aside from the theatrical promo but aside from the first film, Godzilla films DVD or Blu-ray releases never really had any major special features at all.

Overall, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is a film that many Godzilla fans have wanted to see released on Blu-ray and DVD.  Especially its uncut/uncensored version.  I absolutely enjoyed this film and if you are a kaiju film fan, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is highly recommended!

 

The Bodyguard (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Bodyguard” is an entertaining, martial arts action film that Sammo Hung fans will no doubt enjoy! He directs and stars in the film and shows us that he can still choreograph fights, he is as effective as a martial arts actor now as he was since starring in films in the early ’60s. If you love martial arts films and have watched Sammo Hung kick butt in the last five decades, “The Bodyguard” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Irresistible Alpha Limited, Edko Films Limited, Focus Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bodyguard

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Directed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Written by Jun Jiang

Produced by Min-jung Park

Executive-Producer: Jae-Duk Han

Line Producer: Minkyung Shin

Cinematography by Moo-gae Lee

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Art Direction: Hwa-sung Cho

Costume Design by Sang-gyeong Jo


Starring:

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Ding

Jacqueline Chan as Cherry Li

Qinqin Li as Park Seon Nun

Andy Lau as Li Zheng Jiu

James Lee Guy as Sergei

Tomer Oz as Vasily


Retired Special Agent Ding (Sammo Hung) makes a home in a quiet village on the Russia / China border. He befriends a young girl whose father, in debt with the mob, disappears – leaving her in Ding s care. Now he must recall his superior strategic and tactical skills to save both their lives.


Legendary martial arts actor Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (“Ip Man 2”, “Martial Law”, “Winners & Sinners”) directs and stars in the HK action film “The Bodyguard”.  The film would become the first film Sammo has directed since the 1997 film “Once Upon a Time in China and America”.

The film stars Jacqueline Chan, Qinqin Li (“Cala, My Dog!”, “A Great Wall”, “Moment in Peking”), Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Warlords”), James Lee Guy and Tomer Oz (“Skiptrace”, “Dragonblade”, “Mechanic”).

The film is set in a Chinese city in northeast China, near the Russian border.  A group of Russians are slaughtered by a Chinese gang led by Choi and the only person to witness it was Ding (portrayed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung).  Unfortunately, Ding’s memory is terrible and he is unable to remember who he saw kill the men.

As Ding stays at home, he often takes care of a neighbor’s daughter, Cherry Li (portrayed by Jacqueline Chan), who’s father Li Zheng Jiu (portrayed by Andy Lau) is a gambler who has run up debt with Choi and is in big trouble.

When Choi threatens to hurt him, he gives Li a chance to live by going to the hotel occupied by a Russian gang leader and to steal a shoulder-bag.  But the Russians go after Li, who runs off with the case.  But when Choi tells Li that his debt isn’t cleared, Li runs off with the bag and goes into hiding.

To get back at Li, they go after his prized possession, his daughter Cherry.  But when the gang tries, Ding, who still remembers his martial arts technique, manages to save her life.  But Choi’s gang will do anything to capture her.

Meanwhile, a gang war between the Russians and Choi’s gang is escalating.


VIDEO:

“The Bodyguard” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural.  Picture quality for the most part looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Bodyguard” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes that utilize the surround channels, while dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bodyguard” comes with the following special features:

  • An All-Star Cast with All-Star Support – (2:46) Featuring behind-the-scenes with the various all-star cast.
  • About the Characters – (2:25) Featuring the cast discussing their characters
  • A View of the Legend, On and Off-Screen – (2:10) Getting to know Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
  • Sammo Hung: Kindness is His Calling Card – (2:35) A featurette showing Sammo Hung’s kindness and his love for children.
  • About the Action – (2:38) A featurette about the action in the film.
  • About the Girl (Jacqueline Chan) – (2:38) A featurette about the young actress Jacqueline Chan.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Bodyguard”.

For any martial arts fan, “The Bodyguard” is a film that many Sammo Hung fans have wanted to see.

As Sammo Hung was popular through the ’70s, 80’s and ’90s and would have his own US TV show titled “Martial Law”, a lot of films that he has appeared in the 2000’s would feature Sammo Hung as a supporting character or as the elder teacher.

But Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan emerged on the big screen together in 1962 and as Jackie Chan still takes on roles as the main protagonist, it has been awhile since we saw Sammo Hung in the main protagonist role.

So, “The Bodyguard” is rather interesting because this is no doubt a Sammo Hung film in which his friends have come along and joined him on this action-packed adventure (with the exception of Jackie Chan, who was supposed to have a role but due to his son’s scandal, was unable to take part in the film).

Still, we have Andy Lau as an executive producer, we have cameos by legendary filmmaker Hark Tsui and legendary martial arts actors Bo Yuen, Ng Ming-Choi and Qiu Yuen having cameos in the film.

But for martial arts fans, the chance of watching Sammo Hung in an action-driven martial arts film and seeing Hung showing us that he still has what it takes to be a main protagonist and still showing us he can still choreograph his fights and still be as effective as a martial arts actor.

“The Bodyguard” is an entertaining film as Sammo Hung plays the character of Ding, a retired Central Security Bureau Officer who has lost his memory.  Unfortunately, the only things he can remember are terrible things that have happened in his life which he hasn’t talked about but as his memory is rapidly deteriorating, he has struck a friendship with a young girl named Cherry.

Cherry is a vibrant girl who occasionally sneaks into his home, because her father is often out getting himself into trouble.  And for Ding, the only people that really care for him is Cherry and his neighbor, an elderly woman named Park.

But in the city they live in near the Russian border, a Chinese and Russian gang are at war with each other and when Cherry’s father gets involved, he becomes a target, but also making Cherry a target as well.  And the only person that can protect her is Ding.

And when the Chinese gang start going after Cherry, they’ll learn quickly that the old, senile Ding is not a person to mess around with.

While I did enjoy the film, and while it is quite farfetched, there are some story sequences that don’t play out quite smoothly as one would hope.  And for some reasons, scenes that should have been deleted were included in the beginning of the end credits and were unnecessarily added.  Those scenes could have easily became deleted scenes in the special features menu of the Blu-ray/DVD.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural.  The film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes that utilize the surround channels, while dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Overall, “The Bodyguard” is an entertaining, martial arts action film that Sammo Hung fans will no doubt enjoy!  He directs and stars in the film and shows us that he can still choreograph fights, he is as effective as a martial arts actor now as he was since starring in films in the early ’60s.

If you love martial arts films and have watched Sammo Hung kick butt in the last five decades, “The Bodyguard” is a film worth watching!

 

Mountains May Depart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Xstream Pictures (Beijing) – MK Productions – Arte France Cinema. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mountains May Depart

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1), Mandarin and English with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: July 12, 2016


Directed by Zhangke Jia

Screenplay by Zhangke Jia

Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zhong-lun Ren

Co-Produced by Patrick Andre, Remi Burah, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zong-lun Ren

Music by Yoshihiro Hanno

Cinematography by Nelson Lik-wai Yu

Edited by Matthieu Laciau

Casting by Jacqueline Alliss

Art Direction by Qiang Liu


Starring:

Tao Zhao as Shen Tao

Yi Zhang as Zhang Jinsheng

Jing Dong Liang as Liang Jangjung aka Liangzi

Zijian Dong as Zhang Daole (Dollar)

Sylvia Chang as Mia


Mainland master Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin) scales new heights with Mountains May Depart. Starring the luminous Zhao Tao, the film is both an intimate drama and a decades-spanning epic about how China’s capitalist experiment has affected the lives of one splintered family, leaping in time from the past to the present to the speculative near-future. Jia’s new film is an intensely moving study of how China’s economic boom and the culture of materialism it has spawned has affected the bonds of family, tradition, and love.


From award winning filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin”, “Still Life”, “The World”) comes his 2015 “Mountains May Depart”.

Known for creating films that revolve around alienation with a minimalist/realist style and themes of alienated youth but also featuring contemporary Chinese history and showcasing Jia’s musical influences, his work has been compared to auteur, Michelangelo Antonioni.

His film “Mountains May Depart” is consistent with the style of his previous films and also would reunite Jia and his wife, actress Zhao Tao (“Platform”, “Still Life”, “With Shun Li and the Poet”) together.

The film also stars Yi Zhang (“Dearest”, “The Golden Era”), Jing Dong Liang (“Platform”, “The World”, “Unknown Pleasures”), Zijian Dong (“Young Love Lost”, “At Cafe 6”, “Young Style”) and Sylvia Chang (“20 30 40”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “All About Ah-Long”).

And now, “Mountains May Depart” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Mountains May Depart” is a film which features three parts that revolve around characters in 1999, 2014 and 2025.

[Note: Please avoid reading further as the brief synopsis of each part, may contain spoilers]:

The first part is set in 1999 and begins with Shen Tao (portrayed by Zhao Tao) dancing to the Pet Shop Boys song “Go West” with other people.

Shen Tao is a vibrant woman who loves to sing, loves to dance and hangs out with her good friend, a miner named Liangzi (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang).  Tao works with her father selling electronics and just enjoys having fun.

One day, her classmate Zhang Jinsheng (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang) returns back to the village.  Zhang is successful and wealthy and came back to the village to marry the girl of his dreams, Tao.

But despite having a nice car and successful career, he can’t stand that everytime he wants to be alone with her, she brings Liangzi around.  He knows Liangzi likes her, but he thinks that because of his success and wealth, her eyes should be on him.

And he feels that three is a crowd and Zhang tries to find a way to get Liangzi out of the picture, because he feels it’s a love triangle.

The second part takes place 15 years later and it’s 2014.  We see what has happened with Tao and Liangzi as Tao has been divorced from Zhang and she has a son named Zhang Daole (a.k.a. “Dollar”) who lives with his father, going to International School and being raised privileged.  But when tragedy hits, what happens when Tao requests for her young son to visit her for a funeral.

Meanwhile, Liangzi starts to suffer symptoms from working in the mines for a long time.  He is now married with a son and decides to return back to his hometown with his new family.  But with no income, how will he pay for medical care?

The third part is set in 2025 and revolves around a grown up Zhang “Dollar” Daole (portrayed by Zijian Dong) who lives in Australia with his father, Zhang Jinsheng.

Because he was raised in Australia and attended an international school, he and his father are unable to communicate as he speaks English and his father in Mandarin.  They often have to use Google Translate in order to communicate with each other.

He is unhappy living with his father, tired of living his life of going to school and what his father wants him to do and he has not seen his mother in over a decade, he is not sure what to do with his life but he knows he wants freedom.  And that is the freedom to make his own choices without his father’s interference.

But when Dollar starts to become interested in his older teacher, Mia (portrayed by Sylvia Chang), being with her, what major decisions will Dollar make in his life?


VIDEO:

“Mountains May Depart” is a gorgeous film and one that is quite interesting as Nelson Lik-wai Yu shoots the film in 1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1 aspect ratios.

Featuring gorgeous scenery and the placement of the characters with mountains or temples in the background, well-framed and placement of characters are quite artistic and wonderful in symmetry and I can see aside from the alienation of its characters but its juxtaposition of people to various buildings, mountains and backgrouns, why Jia Zhangke would be compared to Michelangelo Antonioni.

Picture quality features wonderful detail, skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.  At times, there are archived sources used but for the majority of the film,  “Mountains May Depart” is a wonderful looking film on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mountains May Depart” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA and the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!  While one can expect crystal clear dialogue and also music, with ambiance, may it be a festival parade or fireworks launching in the air, can be heard via the surround channels.  Music by Yoshihiro Hanno is moving and emotional.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mountains May Depart” comes with the following special features:

  • New York Film Festival – (1:13:04) A conversation with Jia Zhangke courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center conducted by Dennis Lim.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mountains May Depart”.

Watching Jia Zhangke films, you can’t help but be captivated by the film’s beauty, the truth in his films but also understand the plight of alienation surrounding his characters.

Often compared to auteur filmmaker, the master of alienation, Michelangelo Antonioni, “Mountains May Depart” is non-traditional Chinese cinema in the sense that Jia Zhangke creates cinema that needs not to be categorized with other Chinese cinema.

From having a powerful storyline, there are time where we have jarring, colorful club images of random people that breakup the storyline, almost similar to what one were used to seeing of Jean-Claude Godard back in the French Nouvelle years of audio going off and on or imagery that may or may not make sense, we see those little pieces of artistic freedom with his films that is fresh and not a care of whether or not its coherent or incoherent, imagery that fits the timeline that co-exists with the storyline of its characters.

“Mountains May Depart” is rather captivating because of how well the story is crafted.  From the primary female character, Tao dancing to Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” but then seeing her bubbly and vibrant personality that remains strong until she becomes part of a love triangle and must decide on whether or not to divert her attention to the poor but kind Liangzi or the crude, narcissistic and wealthy Zhang.

And we see the tensions start to simmer in this love triangle as Tao looks at Liangzi as a friend, Zhang looks at Liangzi as a man who gets in the way and very much believes in “Three’s a crowd”.

But how beautiful does the film get when it’s storyline weaves into the future.  As Tao has made her choice of a man but we see the result for each of the three individuals.

While I don’t want to spoil the film, this is where Jia Zhangke’s focus of human alienation comes into play.  Choices that we make, are we always happy with them.  But what if you are not happy, life goes on and you deal with with the repercussions of the choices one makes.

The film is visually moving, the story is absolutely captivating and melancholic and “Mountains May Depart” is a film that touches your soul!

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

 

The Tiger (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Hoon-jung Park’s “The Tiger” is an amazing, yet violent film that features a wonderful performance by actor Choi Min-shik. And the collaboration of both men have no doubt led to creation of a unique and wonderful film. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & SANAI PICTURES. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Tiger

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: August 9, 2016


Directed by Hoon-jung Park

Written by Hoon-jung Park

Produced by Min-jung Park

Executive-Producer: Jae-Duk Han

Line Producer: Minkyung Shin

Cinematography by Moo-gae Lee

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Art Direction: Hwa-sung Cho

Costume Design by  Sang-gyeong Jo


Starring:

Min-sik Choi as Chun Man-duk

Man-sik Jeong as Goo-gyeong

Sang-ho Kim as Chil-goo

Eun-woo Lee as Mai-nyeon

Mi-ran Ra as Chil-goo’s wife

Hyun Seung-min as Sun-yi

Yoo-bin Sung as Suk-yi

Jung Suk Won as Military Officer Ryu

Ren Osugi as Govt. Official Maezono

Hong-pa Kim as Herbal shop owner


An ex-sharpshooter for the Kingdom of Korea (CHOI Min-sik, OLDBOY) is hunting the country’s last tiger. But Japanese forces and vicious local poachers also seek “The Four-Legged Mountain Lord,” and will stop at nothing to claim their prey.


From filmmaker Hoon-jung Park (“The Showdown”, “New World”) comes his latest film “The Tiger”.

Starring veteran Min-sik Choi (“Oldboy”, “I Saw the Devil”, “Lucy”, “Lady Vengeance”), Man-sik Jeong (“Miracle in Cell No. 7”, “Veteran”, “Breathless”), Sang-ho Kim (“Sea Fog”, “The Happy Life”, “The Big Swindler”), Eun-woo Lee (“Moebius”, “Gyeongju”, “Romantic Heaven”), Ren Osugi (“Fireworks”, “The Twilight Samurai”, “Audition”, “Sonatine”) and Yoo-Bin Sung.

And now, “The Tiger” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins in 1925.  Living in the mountains in Mt. Jirisan is Chun Man-duk (portrayed by Min-shik Choi), a man who hunts for food for his wife and son and has a reputation for being one of Korea’s top shooters.

One day, while hunting, Chun Man-duk went hunting and comes across a tiger and shoots it.

Fastforward, more than a decade later, during a time when Korea is now occupied by Japan.

The Japanese High Government Official Maezono are after the illusive great tiger of Mt. Jirisan and pressures Japanese Military Officer Ryu (portrayed by Jung Suk-won) to capture the tiger.

Meanwhile, hunters led by Goo-Gyeong (portrayed by Jung Man-sik) have been trying to capture the “one-eyed tiger” but only have been able to kill its mate and two cubs.

And as Maezono is to go back to Japan, he orders his Japanese Military Officer Ryu to get the one-eyed tiger immediately before he leaves.

The Japanese military wants Chun Man-duk to capture it for its skin but for some reason, he no longer hunts and prefers to live in a hut raising his 16-year-old son Syeok (portrayed by Sung Yoo-bin).

Each time Syeok asks his father about the Japanese going after tigers, his father tells him about the mountain gods and refuses to discuss it.

The real reason is because one day, while hunters were trying to capture the one-eyed tiger, they led the tiger into town.  As Chun-man Duk was trying to hunt for it, he accidentally shot and killed his wife instead.  Thus the guilt has prevented him from hunting since that day and he has tried to keep the truth away from his son.

But for Syeok, when he finds out his girlfriend is being forced by her parents to marry another boy, because Syeok and his father are broke.

Determined to prove to his father that he is grown-up and can make his own money and hunt for the tiger, Syeko goes to Japanese Military Officer Ryu to join the hunting team led by Goo-Gyeong.

While they know the boy is to young and inexperienced, they feel that with Syeok joining, chances are that Chun Man-duk will be forced to help the hunters capture the tiger.

But what happens when Syeok joins the hunters in their major hunt for the one-eyed tiger?


VIDEO:

“The Tiger” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain. Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural (especially the scars on the hunters face or the snow-burned skin of certain individuals), black levels are nice and deep.  Even the CG of the tigers are well-done and look realistic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Tiger” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear, as with the musical score.  There is great use of surround sound during the more action-driven scenes involving artillery blasts, gun shots, the sound of the pack of wolves or tigers growling.  Lossless audio for this film is great!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Tiger” comes with a theatrical trailer.


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When it comes to Korean cinema, I have grown accustomed to watching Min-sik Choi films and knowing that with each film, you are going to get something well-written, violent and sometimes, a film that can be quite dark.

While many will be familiar with Min-sik Choi films such as “Old Boy”, I think that I will remember the first time I watched Choi’s work through the film “Swiri” and with each film, I learned throughout the years, we are going to get something unique and different.

And with his latest film “The Tiger” directed by Hoon-jung Park (who is known for writing film such as “I Saw the Devil” and “The Unjust” and directing “New World”), the collaboration of both men is wonderful.

Without spoiling anything major about the film, the film revolves around the Japanese military expecting  Korean hunters to kill and bring back the great one-eyed tiger.

Anyone who has tried, have been savagely killed by the tiger.

But for Japanese High Government Official Maezono, who is fascinated by tigers, before he leaves to Japan, he wants possession of the great tiger’s skin.

With Japanese Military Officer Ryu’s career on the line, he wants the hunters to do all that is necessary to catch the tiger.

But also knowing that one man, who is known for his shooting and hunting skills is important to be involved in the hunt group.

Unfortunately, that man, Chun Man-duk, has stopped hunting and is a family man raising his teenage son.  For Chun Man-duk, he looks at hunting as the will of the mountain and appeasing the mountain gods, as many of the locals living in the mountains believe in as well.

But because Chun Man-duk has lived a life of poverty and is quite content with his lifestyle, his son Ryeok is not.  Especially now that his girlfriend’s mother is wanting her daughter to marry a boy who comes from a family with money.

Wanting to prove that he is a man and that his father had taught him enough about hunting, Ryeok enlists himself with the Japanese military to join the hunters in their next major hunt for the great one-eyed tiger.

Again, I am not going to spoil the storyline at all, but I will say that director/writer Hoon-jung Park has taken great care in the storyline and not reduce it to any fluff or happy moments, but to show the savagery of hunting, the work of karma and for those who have researched or read traditional Asian stories about respecting the land or its gods, these details are interwoven with the storyline.

Protagonist Chun Man-duk is a man of the land and believes in the tales, while his son does not and just wants to live a normal life like everyone else and wants his father to not live this poor life, picking herbs.

It’s no doubt a struggle, not just with nature but any parent can see how either way is justified.

But what is interesting is how the film shows the mutual respect between Chun Man-duk and the great one-eyed tiger.  And slowly giving viewers tidbits of information of this respect between man and beast but also knowing that karma works in unique ways.

The performance by actor Choi Min-shik is fantastic but credit should also be given to the direction by Hoon-jung Park, the cinematography by Mo-gae Lee but also the visual effects, especially its realistic looking tigers and wolves.

The Blu-ray release features fantastic picture quality and because the number of action sequences, including sequences involving artillery, these sound great for its lossless soundtrack.  Unfortunately, there are no special features included but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Hoon-jung Park’s “The Tiger” is an amazing, yet violent film that features a wonderful performance by actor Choi Min-shik.  And the collaboration of both men have no doubt led to creation of a unique and wonderful film.

Highly recommended!

 

 

Kill Zone 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Pou-Soi Cheang’s “Kill Zone 2” is gritty and intense!  It is high adrenaline action from beginning to end, “Kill Zone 2” is an action film that truly kicks ass in many levels and martial arts fans will no doubt be captivated by this film.   Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Sun Entertainment Culture Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kill Zone 2

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: July 19, 2016


Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang

Screenplay by Lai-yin Leung, Yin Wong

Produced by Paco Wong, Wilson Yip

Associate Producer: Michael Selby

Executive-Producer: Yi-Qi Chen, Alvin Chow, Alex Tong, Dong yu

Cinematography by Kenny Tse

Music by Ken Chan, Kwong Wing Chan

Edited by David M. Richardson

Production Design: Horace Ma

Casting by Kimberly Hardin, Natasha Ward

Production Design by Niko Villaivongs

Set Decoration by Azul Hicks

Costume Design by Bruce Yu


Starring:

Tony Jaa at Chatchai

Jing Wu as Chan Chi-Kit

Simon Yam as Chan Kwok-Wah

Jin Zhang as Ko Hung

Louis Koo as Hung Mun-Gong

Ken Lo as Wong Kwong

Jun Kung as Hung Mun-Biu

Dominc Lam as Cheung Chun-Tung

Babyjohn Choi as Kwok Chun-Yat

Wai Ai as Dai-Hau

Philip Keung as Fan Ging-Hung

Andrew Ng as Uncle On


When an undercover cop gets too close to revealing the mastermind of a drug syndicate, his cover is blown. Double-crossed and under a false identity, he’s thrown into a Thai prison, where a guard discovers the inmate – claiming he’s a cop – is a bone marrow match for his dying daughter…and his warden may have an even deadlier operation hidden within the prison walls.
In this giddily frenetic follow-up (though not a sequel) to modern martial arts epic KILL ZONE (aka SPL: SHA PO LANG), action icons Tony Jaa (ONG BAK, THE PROTECTOR) Wu Jing (WOLF WARRIOR) and Zhang Jin (IP MAN 3) team up with Hong Kong megastars Simon Yam and Louis Koo for a breakneck story of dirty cops, prison riots, and black market organ transplants, all brought together by a non-stop series of inventive, bone-crunching setpieces.


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In 2005, the action film SPL: Sha Po Lang (a.k.a. “Kill Zone”) starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Simon Yam was released in theaters and was the top earning film for several weeks in Hong Kong.

Fastforward to 2015 and the sequel “SPL II: A Time for Consequences” (a.k.a. “Kill Zone 2”)  directed by Cheang Pou-soi (“Accident”, “Motorway”) and written by Lai-yin Leung (“Ip Man 3”, “As the Light Goes Out”) and Ying Wong was released in theaters.

Featuring a new story but reprising the roles by Wu Jing (“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, “Shaolin”, “Wolf Warrior”) and Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “Election”, “PTU”), the second film also stars Tony Jaa (“Ong-bak” films, “Furious 7”), Jin Zhang (“Ip Man 3”, “The Grandmaster”, “The Bounty”) and Louis Koo (“Drug War”, “Election”, “Triad Election”, “Flash Point”).

And the film will be released on Blu-ray in July 2016 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film focuses on several people.  Kit (portrayed by Wu Jing) is an undercover copy who becomes a drug addict in order to infiltrate a crime syndicate that has been kidnapping people and sending them to Thailand, where they are held by corrupt prison warden Ko Hung (portrayed by Jin Zhang) in hidden cells, are killed and their organs are sold on the black market.

The mastermind is Hung Mun-Gong (portrayed by Louis Koo), who has a rare heart condition and needs to undergo a heart transplant but the only person that can give him a matching heart is his younger brother.

So, Hung sends his men to kidnap his brother but the kidnapping goes wrong as Kit is able to relay the details to his uncle, Chan Kwok-Wah (portrayed by Simon Yam) of the police force.

While Hung’s brother is accidentally shot, he is retrieved and kept by the Hong Kong police, meanwhile Kit is kept by Hung’s men and sent to Thailand where he is held in prison for a life sentence by the corrupt prison warden, Ko Hung.

Meanwhile, in the prison is the good-natured prison guard Chatchai (portrayed by Tony Jaa) who is desperately trying to save his daughter Chatchai who has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.

But as desperate he is to save his daughter, he learns about Ho Kung’s secret rooms of people victims being kept inside.  One young girl who can save his daughter’s life.

Will Chatchai continue to serve Ho Kung after discovering the illegal activities in the prison?  Will Chan Kwok-Wah be able to rescue his nephew Kit from the Thailand prison?  And will young Chatchai be saved?


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VIDEO:

“Kill Zone 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain.  Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill Zone 2” is presented in Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and there is also an English dub soundtrack. While the lossless audio manages to utilize the actions sequences, from gun shots to vehicle crashes to just pure fighting chaos and the ambiance of various locations utilize the surround channels with efficacy.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill Zone 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring three segments (about two minutes each): The Story, The Fights and The Vision
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Kill Zone 2”.

EXTRAS:

“Kill Zone 2” comes with a slipcover.


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When the original “SPL” film was released, the fact that it starred two martial arts legends, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung together in a film definitely made it an anticipated film.

But when you have a sequel without its two stars, how will you improve on the original, if possible?

The answer was bring in Thailand’s well-known martial artist, Tony Jaa and create a storyline that would feature the return of Wu Jing and Simon Yam and find a bridge between Hong Kong and Thailand for its next storyline.

And here we are with the second SPL film a.k.a. “Kill Zone 2”.

A storyline that deals with abducted children from Hong Kong, being sent to Thailand and being kept in the secret walls by a corrupt prison warden, who kills them and sells their organs to the black market.

Wu Jing plays the role of the Hong Kong undercover detective who manages to infiltrate the Thailand prison, but the journey to get there is not easy as it would require becoming a drug addict and putting his own life at risk.

Running the operation is his uncle, played by Simon Lam who does all he can to protect his nephew but knows that greater things are at stake.

And then you have Tony Jaa as Chatchai, a prison guard and loving father for his daughter who needs a bone marrow transplant due to her leukemia.

Louis Koo plays the role of a Hung, a man who is responsible for the syndicate that kidnaps the children and this time, he is dying and wants his younger brother’s organs, so he devises a plan for his men to kidnap his younger brother and send him to Thailand but the plan is thwarted by the Hong Kong police and the younger brother is retrieved by Hong Kong police, while Kit is taken and imprisoned in the Thailand prison.

For these men, they come from different paths but those paths start to converge and things quickly become chaotic.

As the film tries to tell the story from different vantage points and timelines, at times, things can get a little confusing.  But once the storyline plots start to converge, the story starts to make sense.

The fight choreography is fantastic and while you expect physicality from Tony Jaa, both Wu Jing and Zhang Jin were equally impressive.  But its the fight choreography that was amazing to watch and in someways, it was reminiscent to the classic Jet Li martial art films.

Louis Koo was also surprising because he is not even recognizable in the film and I didn’t even know he was in the film until I watched the special features.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain.  Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  While the lossless audio manages to utilize the actions sequences and ambiance of various locations with efficacy.  There are also a few special features such as the making of the film, deleted scenes and more.

Pou-Soi Cheang’s “Kill Zone 2” is gritty and intense!  It is high adrenaline action from beginning to end, “Kill Zone 2” is an action film that truly kicks ass in many levels and martial arts fans will no doubt be captivated by this film.   Recommended!

 

The Mermaid (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are searching for a film that incorporates comedy and action with that Stephen Chow-style of filmmaking that many of us have come to love, then “The Mermaid” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Richname Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Mermaid

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Polish, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Some Violence)

Release Date: July 5, 2016


Directed by Stephen Chow

Written by Hing-ka Chan, Stephen Chow, Chi Keung Fung, Miu-Kei Ho, Ivy Kong, Si-Cheun Lee, Zhengyu Lu, Kan-Cheung Tsang

Producer: Stephen Chow

Co-Producer: Wei Yang

Consulting Producer: Bill Borden

Co-Executive Producer: Yuan Cai, Zhong-lun Ren

Executive-Producer: Stephen Chow, La Peikang

Co-Executive Producer: Yuan Cai, Zhong-lun Ren

Cinematography by Sung Fai Choi

Music by Fuhua Huang, Jiajia Zheng

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Art Direction by Raymond Chan, Bruce Yu


Starring:

Chao Deng as Liu Xuan

Yun Lin as Shan

Show Luo as Octopus

Yuqi Zhang as Ruolan

Pierre Bourdaud as The Auctioneer

Ivan Kotik as George

Hark Tsui as Si Ye

Kris Wu as Wu Yi Fan (Cameo)


From Stephen Chow, director of Kung Fu Hustle, comes The Mermaid: the comedic action-filled phenomenon that has become China’s biggest film of all time! When greedy real estate tycoon, Liu XUAN (Deng Chao), buys up a pristine coastal enclave known as Green Gulf, he plans to turn it into the hottest property on the market. But Green Gulf harbors a secret: it’s home to the last surviving mermaids, and they are done playing nice. Their plan: send the beautiful Shan (Lin Yun) to seduce Liu and stop the destruction of their beloved oceans. But when their plan goes belly-up, neither humans nor mermaids are willing to back down, and a final, fatal frenzy becomes inevitable.


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For over 20-years, Stephen Chow has entertained millions of people with his action comedy films.

From “Love on Delivery”, “From Beijing with Love”, “King of Comedy”, “Shaolin Soccer”, “Kung Fu Hustle”, “CJ7” and “Journey to the West”, to name a few.  Chow’s films are original, full of hope and entertaining because you never know what to expect.

And as Chow’s films tend to be high-grossing in the Chinese box office, his latest film “The Mermaid” which was released back in Feb. 2016, became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time.

The film would star Chao Deng (“Assembly”, “Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame”, “The Four”), Yun Lin (“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties”), Show Luo (“Journey to the West”, “Hi My Sweetheart”, “Lan qui huo”) and Yuqi Zhang (“CJ7”, “White Deer Plain”, “All About Women”).

And in July 2016, Stephen Chow’s most successful film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Mermaid” begins with millionaire Liu Xuan (portrayed by Chao Deng) purchasing the Green Gulf, a wildlife reserve for a sea reclamation project.  He dumps sonar technology in order to rid (and kill) any sea life that goes near it.

While his wealthy friends do not put so much belief in Liu Xuan’s ability, because he came from a poor upbringing and because of his Playboy ways.

While he is able to attract the beautiful and money loving Ruolan (portrayed by Zhang Yuqi), who sees the project as wonderful for her to make even more money. She becomes Liu Xuan’s business partner.  But she also wants all Liu Xuan’s attention to be on her.

Meanwhile, at a party, a strange girl shows up and tries to get Liu Xuan to contact her and leaves her a number for him to contact her.  But his bodyguards send her on her way.

When the weird girl goes home, we see her going through home but then going through a tunnel heading downward and we learn that the weird girl, Shan, is actually a mermaid.

And that she was sent by her fellow mermaids to avenge their fallen and those who are near-death due to Liu Xuan’s sonar technology.  The goal is for Shan to use her beauty to lure Liu Xuan to Mermaid home and so everyone can kill him.

But because Liu Xuan’s playboy ways can’t stop him, he ends up calling Shan to come to his building.

Now Shan will have her chance to assassinate him?  Can she kill the man responsible for hurting her fellow mermaids or will she end up falling in love with him instead?


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VIDEO:

“The Mermaid” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Mermaid” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. As this is an action film, there is a lot of surround sound usage during the more action intense battle exchanges and also good use of LFE during the battles, especially between the mermaids vs. the humans. But overall, dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear.  Great use of the surround channels throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Polish, Spanish, Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Mermaid” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of the Mermaid – (13:23) Interviews with the cast and crew on the making of the film and their characters.
  • Invincible Music Video – (1:33) The cast members individually lip-synch of “Invincible”.
  • The Mermaid Behind The Scenes – (1:44) A short behind-the-scenes look at the cast having fun behind-the-scenes.

EXTRAS:

“The Mermaid” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


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I have watched and reviewed many Stephen Chow films and with each film, he manages to maintain a consistency of comedy, unique storytelling and just creating something out of the ordinary and non-traditional.

And to my delight, I enjoyed “The Mermaid” for its hilarious and unpredictable moments but for a Stephen Chow film, surprised how things got dark and violent for the second half of the film.

The premise of “The Mermaid” is that a playboy millionaire is wreaking havok in the ocean, killing all sealife due to his sonar devices for his reclamation project.

The character Liu Xuan is a playboy, likes to sport a (fake) thin mustache and looks like as if he could give a care for the world.  But deep down inside, he is a lonely guy that wants to be loved, instead of being loved for his money.

All that changes when he falls for Shan, a weird unusual girl who he tries to through money in order for her to leave, but she’s not interested in money.  She is a mermaid who was sent by her group to allure him and so the mermaids can kill him for putting harm to sea creatures and killing and hurting many mermaids.

And as Shan tries her best to assassinate the millionaire or do whatever is possible to lure him to her place and let her fellow mermaids off him, she falls in love with him, ad Liu falls in love with her.  Two lonely souls that have found a wonderful bond and likes.  May it be singing, eating chicken, you name it, they enjoy each other’s presence.  And for Liu, he found a woman that is interested in him and not his money.

But of course, he doesn’t know that she is a mermaid and her goal is to get him killed?

But the true antagonist of the film is Ruolan, the business partner of Liu who is gorgeous but also vain.  She only wants money and she is targeting Liu for his millions.

And she truly hates Shan for captivating his attention and when she finds out that Shan is a mermaid, suffice to say, all hell breaks loose.

Stephen Chow also brings in one of his fellow film actors, Show Luo as Octopus.  Unlike other merman’s, he is half human and half octopus.  He is attracted to Shan, but she is not attracted to him.  He leads the mermaids but gets into situations with his tentacles that one can’t help but laugh, unfortunately also at his pain.

For a Stephen Chow film, he does not star in this film at all.  But surprisingly, we see legendary director Hark Tsui (“Once Upon a Time in China” and “Seven Sword” films) having a role in the film.  And also the appearance of pop star Wu Yifan in a cameo role is another plus.

In fact, for those who have enjoyed previous Stephen Chow films, will find it delightful to see familiar faces in “The Mermaid”.

While many of Stephen Chow films are fantastic.  Many have asked me, how does this film rank in his oeuvre of directed films.  And I think my answer is the same.  I’ll always love his 1994 film “Love on Delivery”, since it was the first Stephen Chow film that I was introduced to.  But my all-time favorite would be his 2001 film “Shaolin Soccer”.

No doubt “Kung Fu Hustle” was amazing and gained the actor/director international recognition and “CJ7” was touching.  But “The Mermaid”, it was a bit different in the fact that while Stephen Chow films have a lot of action, there was no doubt a political message that he was sending with this film.

May it be a message of the slaughter of whales that happens in other islands or the military use of sonar and killing sealife, there is a deep message of the harm that is being done and the hope that it can be stopped.  And because we have seen images of the slaughter of minke whales, Chow drives home the message through visual scenes of savagery.

What is primarily a film full of comedy becomes serious and dark by the second half that you can’t help but be surprised of the transition as you watch major violence upon the two protagonists.  While not uncommon to see in a Stephen Chow film, this is probably the furthest Chow has gone to show his protagonists suffering extreme violence.

But with that being said, “The Mermaid” is an entertaining films.  For its over-the-top humor and its handling of characters, its visual effects.. Stephen Chow has no doubt upped his game.

The performance by Chao Deng, Yun Lin, Show Luo and Yuqi Zhang is wonderful.  Chao and Yun’s onscreen chemistry was captivating!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic.  Lossless audio is also immersive considering this is an action film.  And you get also a few special features included.

The hard part is with Stephen Chow having directed so many fantastic films, “The Mermaid” would not be on my top 3 favorite Stephen Chow-directed films.  But it is a wonderful and entertaining film that I recommend!

Overall, if you are searching for a film that incorporates comedy and action with that Stephen Chow-style of filmmaking that many of us have come to love, then “The Mermaid” is definitely recommended!

 

The Midnight After (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Midnight After” is a film for those who enjoy series such as “The Twilight Zone” and “LOST”. Those who enjoy horror comedies but also enjoy films that showcase the premise of a fear of the unknown. Filmmaker Fruit Chan is able to deliver an entertaining horror comedy with a message about modern society. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Golden Scene Company Limited. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Midnight After

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: 121 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Widescreen, Cantonese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

AVAILABLE ON: July 5, 2016


Directed by Fruit Chan

Screenplay by Fai-Hung Chan, Fruit Chan, Ho-Yan Kong

Produced by Amy Chin

Executive Producer: Fruit Chan, Winnie Tsang

Associate Producer: Alex Tong

Music by Veronica Lee, Ellen Joyce Loo

Cinematography by Wah-Chuen Lam

Production Design by Lim Chung Man, Andrew Wong

Costume Design by Phoebe Wong


Starring:

You-Nam Wong as You Zhi-chi

Janice Man as Yuki

Simon  Yam as Wong Man-fah

Kara Hui as Mak Sau-ying

Tien You Chui as Shun

Suet Lam as Suet

Goo-bi GC as Pat

Shing-Cheung Lee as Bobby

Sam Lee as Blind Fai

Cherry Ngan as Yi, Chi-chi’s Girlfriend

Kin-Long Chan as Glu-Stick

Ronnie Yuen as Airplane

Melodee Mak as Lavina

Jan Curious as Auyeng Wai

Chui Tien-you as Shun


16 strangers on a bus. An apocalyptic accident. A downtown full of people: Vanished. The newly-dead: Instantly Decaying. Ominous glimpses of men in gas masks. What has happened to the world, and how far would you go to get your life back?


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What would you do if everyone disappeared in the world and all that is left is you and sixteen other people you rode in the bus with?

From filmmaker Fruit Chan (“Made in Hong Kong”, “Three…Extremes”, “Hollywood Hong Kong”) comes his horror-comedy “The Midnight After”, an adaptation of a serialized web fiction titled “Lost on a Red Minibus to Tai-Po” by an anonymous writer known as Pizza and was published as a novel in 2012.

The film stars You-nam Wong (“Ip Man”, “Hollywood Hong Kong”, “Tiger & Dragon Reloaded”), Janice Man (“Nightfall”, “Helios”, “Punished”), Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “Election”, “PTU”), Kara Hui (“Dragon”, “At the End of Daybreak”, “The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter”), Tien You Chui (“Contagion”, “At the End of Daybreak”, “After This Our Exile”), Suet Lam (“Kung Fu Hustle”, “PTU”, “Election”), Goo-Bi GC (“Exodus”, “Temporary Family”, “20 30 40”), Shing-Cheung Lee (“Journey to the West”, “CJ7”, “The Stool Pigeon”), Cherry Ngan (“The Way We Dance”, “Nightfall”, “Mojin – The Lost Legend”) and Sam Lee (“Made in Hong Kong”, “Ping Pong”, “Dog Bite Dog”).

“The Midnight After” revolves around 17 people who catch a late bus from Mong Kok to Tai Po.

This includes the driver (portrayed by Lam Suet), the elder Fat (portrayed by Simon Yam), the loverboy Yau Tsi-chi (portrayed by Wong You-nam), the worried about her boyfriend Yuki (portrayed by Janice Man), the music store manager Shun (portrayed by Chui Tien-you),  the insurance salesperson/space zealot Mook Sau-ying (portrayed by Kara Hui), the otaku Auyeung Wai (portrayed by Jan Curious), the cocaine addict Blind Fai (portrayed by Sam Lee), soccer fans Pat (portrayed by Cheuk Wan-chi) and her husband Bobby (portrayed by Lee Sheung-ching), a woman named Lavina (portrayed by Melodee Mak) and two juvenile delinquents Airplane (portrayed by Ronnie Yuen) and Glu-stick (portrayed by Kelvin Chan) and four university students.

As each of them are riding the bus, as they go into a tunnel and come out, everyone tries to reach friends and love ones on their phone but no one is answering.  Each call the police and no one answers.

Everyone starts to realize that there are no signs of cars or people, even of it’s late, the city is empty.

Worried about what may happen, each are determined to stay in touch with each other.

The first one let out of the bus are the four university students.  As they get out, one is sick and the three try to get help but no one is alive or around.

As Yau Tsi-chi and Yuki leave, Yau keeps seeing a person wearing a gas mask and a vision of an evil Yuki with her hair flying all over the place.

Worried about his girlfriend, Yau Tsi-chi rides his bike all the way back to Kowloon but no one is at her place.  All he finds is dust.

Meanwhile, as the students are unable to get help, they find their friend convulsing and later blowing up.  Running away to get some help, the three see Yau Tsi-chi riding his bike, but as they run after him, the three end up turning into dust and exploding or shattering.

Everyone then receives a phone call of shrieking.

The surviving people who rode on the bus end up going to a restaurant and trying to figure out what has happened.  Shun is able to deduct that the shrieking is actually a message in morse code.  The phrases from the morse code happens to be give reference to the David Bowie song “Space Oddity”.

But what does the song happen to do with what is happening to the world?

And who of the surviving people on the bus will survive in the end?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Midnight After” is presented in 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital. While I would have loved to watch the film in HD on Blu-ray, picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD. Audio is also very good considering all the action showcased in the film with good use of surround channels and LFE, especially its use in order to scare the audience.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The only special features included is a trailer.


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The two primary reasons that attracted me to watching “The Midnight After” is filmmaker Fruit Chan who strays away from traditional Hong Kong cinema and creating cinema that is different and original.

And the other reason is for actor Sam Lee, because any horror films that tend to star him tend to be a lot of fun and often crazy.

From “Bio-Zombie” and “Bio-Cops” and the fact that both Chan and Lee have collaborated before, needless to say, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of horror comedy that Fruit Chan had up his sleeve.

What we get is something that feels very “Twilight Zone” mixed with the popular American sci-fi drama series “Lost”.

A group of people who are very different from each other, now having to work together and survive and find out why the world has changed and why they are the only people alive.

Some wonder if it’s a virus like SARS and people have turned into zombies, others wonder if it was some sort of radiation or aliens. And the confusion intensifies with morse code that translates into lyrics from David Bowie’s hit 1969 song “Space Oddity” and a mysterious figure wearing a gas mask.

But its the sense of not knowing what is going on that helps propel the film to become interesting and seeing who survives and dies.  Not just from whatever is out there killing them but also from the survivor’s own hands.

But underneath all the comedy and the jokes, leaving that aside, there is a message within the film that discusses various issues affecting people, from the lack of religious beliefs, economic downturn, lack of trust in the political system and other themes.

And as for the horror, one should not think of blood curdling horror but more of the fear of the unknown and also, how the survivors respond when one of their own commits an unforgivable crime.  Also, give thanks to the use of sound and music in creating hair jumping fear for the viewer.

“The Midnight After” is a witty and entertaining film, but for those looking for a resolve, the film is one of those that requires for one to come up with answers for themselves.  Nothing is clear cut.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is good, as one can expect on DVD, but wish this film was released on Blu-ray.  And as for special features, there are none.

Overall, “The Midnight After” is a film for those who enjoy series such as “The Twilight Zone” and “LOST”.  Those who enjoy horror comedies but also enjoy films that showcase the premise of a fear of the unknown.  Filmmaker Fruit Chan is able to deliver an entertaining horror comedy with a message about modern society.

Recommended!

 

 

Rise of the Legend (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Rise of the Legend” does an exciting job of showcasing legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung. The fight choreography is top-notch and actor Eddie Peng does a solid job taking on the mantle of the legendary hero. For those who love hardcore action and martial arts, you’ll no doubt love Roy Chow’s “Rise of the Legend”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Edko Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rise of the Legend

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 132 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: May 24, 2016


Directed by Roy Hin Yeung Chow

Written by Chi-long To

Produced by Ivy Ho, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Executive-Producer: Ryuhei Chiba, William Kong, Hugh Simon

Cinematography by Man-Ching Ng

Music by Shigeru Umebayashi

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Art Direction by Pater Wong

Costume Design by Stephanie Wong


Starring:

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Master Lui

Eddie Peng as Fei

Luodan Wang as Chun

Boran Jing as Fiery

Cho-Lam Wong as Big Tooth

Junji Qin as Food

Byron Mann as Black Crow

Tai-Yu Gao as Wing

Tony Ka Fai Leung as Fei’s father

Angelababy as Orchid


A martial artist with extraordinary power (Eddie Peng) returns to the town where his father was murdered to face off against a ruthless crime boss (Sammo Hung) and bring justice back to the people.


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When it comes to action films, Wong Fei-hung (a real Chinese folk hero) has been immortalized on many films and television.

While in reality, known for being an expert in Hung Ga style of Chinese martial arts and teaching acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine, in movies, he legendary status has taken on different forms.

From Jackie Chan’s 1978 film “Drunken Master” and 1994’s “Drunken Master II”, Gordon Liu’s “Challenge of the Masters” and “Martial Arts Club”, Jet Li’s “Once Upon a Time in China”, Donnie Yen’s 1993 film “Iron Monkey”, Sammo Hung as Wong in the 2004 film “Around the World in 80 Days” and now with Eddie Peng in the 2014 film “Rise of the Legend”.

Directed by Roy Chow (“Lust, Caution”, “Nightfall”, “Murderer”), the film would star Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (“Ip Man 2”, “My Lucky Stars”, “Martial Law”), Eddie Peng (“Unbeatable”, “Hear Me”, “To the Fore”), Luodan Wang (“The Continent”, “Caught in the Web”), Boran Jing (“Monster Hunt”, “The Bullet Vanishes”, “Lost and Love”), Cho-Lam Wong (“Come On, Cousin”, “La comedie humaine”), Junjie Qin (“Curse of the Goldden Flower”, “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”), Byron Mann (“Catwoman”, “Red Corner”, “Street Fighter”), Tony Ka Fai Leung (“Detective De: Mystery of the Phantom Flame”, “Bodyguards and Assassins”, “Election”) and Angelababy (“Hitman: Agent 47”, “Tai Chi Zero”, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”).

And now “Rise of the Legend” will be available in May 2016 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Rise of the Legend” revolves around Wong Fei Hung (portrayed by Eddie Peng) during the late Qing Dynasty, and during a time when two crime factions are running the Huangpu Port: The Black Tiger and the Northern Sea.

Wong Fei Hung has been wanting to get revenge for the death of his father (portrayed by Tony Ka Fai Leung) and the abduction of his childhood friend/girlfriend (portrayed by Wang Luodan).

So, he finds a way to get into the Black Tiger gang led by Master Lui (portrayed by Sammo Kam-bo Hung) and his three sons who rule different territories in Guangzhou.

Master Lui makes a proclamation that if someone can get the head of the leader of the Northern Sea, they will become Master Lui’s fourth son.

And so, Wong Fei Hung must do what he can to infiltrate the Black Tiger gang and become the fourth son and take out the three crime leaders and Master Lui.

Can he do it?


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VIDEO:

“Rise of the Legend” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks vibrant and full of detail. Closeups show great detail and visual effects look good as well. For the most part, the film does a good job of blending in the special effects into the choreography.

But the film looks fantastic in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rise of the Legend” is presented in Mandarin and English (dub) 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound during moments of action (which there are many in this film).

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rise of the Legend” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring a short making-of featurettes that got into the characters, Eddie Peng, injuries suffered on set, cinematography and special effects.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for”Rise of the Legend”.

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Actor Eddie Peng is no doubt in good company when playing the legendary folk hero Wong Fei-hung.

The role has been played by Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Gordon Liu and Vincent Zhao, to name a few.

And if you are going to play Wong Fei-hung, you are going to have to be physically fit and ready for the action (and also injuries that comes along with shooting martial arts action films).

And suffice to say, Eddie Peng did a magnificent job playing the role, considering a lot of his past roles were dramatic and he was a popular pop singer in Taiwan.

In “Rise of the Legend”, Eddie Peng plays a younger Wong Fei-hung, who has seen a lot of corruption by the local gangs, seeing his father killed in a fire (note: The real Wong Kei-ying did not die this way but in each of the films about Wong Fei-hung, his father was instrumental in making Wong Fei-hung a caring man) and seeing his childhood girlfriend being taken to become a courtesan (many girls were taken from their families or kidnapped or sold to become prostitutes or servants).

And now returning back home to the land where his father was murdered, Wong Fei-hung must infiltrate the Black Tiger Gang and take out all of the leaders in order to give the locals their life back but also getting the revenge that he has been waiting for, since he was a child.

While the film can be a bit banal, in terms of one man taking on hundreds of enemies, taking out the bosses in order to fight the grand boss, there is a bit of strategy on Wong Fei-hung’s part in order to make it all happen, despite also trying to sell the fact that he can be ruthless and a worthy fourth son to Black Tiger leader, Master Lui.

The fight choreography is very well-done and there was a lot of attention focused on various fight moves and as one can watch on the special features, a few of the actors got injured while making this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic with good attention to detail, especially showcasing the gorgeous production and costume design.  The lossless soundtrack showcases the many action scenes throughout the film.  And for those who do not like to read English subtitles, the film also comes with an English dub.  And there are a few short special features included as well.

Overall, “Rise of the Legend” does an exciting job of showcasing legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung.  The fight choreography is top-notch and actor Eddie Peng does a solid job taking on the mantle of the legendary hero.  For those who love hardcore action and martial arts, you’ll no doubt love Roy Chow’s “Rise of the Legend”.

Recommended!

 

The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Naked Island” is visually mesmerizing and entertaining considering there is no dialogue in the film. While filmmaker Kaneto Shindo has a long oeuvre of fantastic films which he directed and wrote, “The Naked Island” stands out for its visual style and storytelling. Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1960 Kindai Eiga Kyokai.  The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811

YEAR OF FILM: 1960

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural in Japanese with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/Toho/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2016


Directed by Kaneto Shindo

Written by Kaneto Shindo

Produced by Eisaku Matssura, Kaneto Shindo

Music by Hikaru Hayashi

Cinematography by Kiyomi Kuroda

Edited by Toshio Enoki


Starring:

Nobuko Otawa as Toyo (mother)

Taiji Tonoyama as Senta (father)

Shinji Tanaka as Taro (eldest son)

Masanori Horimoto as Jiro (youngest son)


Director Kaneto Shindo’s documentary-like, dialogue-free portrayal of daily struggle is a work of stunning visual beauty and invention. The international breakthrough for one of Japan’s most innovative filmmakers—who went on to make other unique masterworks such as Onibaba and KuronekoThe Naked Island follows a family whose home is on a tiny, remote island in the Japanese archipelago. They must row a great distance to another shore, collect water from a well in buckets, and row back to their island—a nearly backbreaking task essential for the survival of these people and their land. Featuring a phenomenal modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, this is a truly hypnotic experience, with a rhythm unlike that of any other film.


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In Japanese cinema, filmmaker/writer Kaneto Shindo has had many noteworth films in his oeuvre.  In fact, at the end of his career, Shindo had directed 48 films and wrote 238 scripts.

Known for directing films such as “Onibaba”, “Story of a Beloved Wife”, “Kuroneko”, “A Last Note” to name a few.

And as filmmakers have their muse in their careers, Jean-Luc Godard with Anna Karina, Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, John Ford and John Wayne, Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, to name a few.

For Kaneto Shindo, he had Nobuko Otawa, his mistress and later his wife.  An actress with a long career and one of her most notable films with Shindo was the black-and-white 1960 film, “Hadaka no shima” (The Naked Island).

A film that would star Otawa, Taiji Tonoyama, Shinji Tanaka and Masanori Horimoto.

A film with no spoken dialogue and featuring a modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, “The Naked Island” is a unique film which would win the Grand Prix at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.

And now, “The Naked Island” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“The Naked Island” follows a family of four that live in a tiny island in the Seto Inland Sea.  They are the only occupants of the island and they survive by farming.

But it’s a harsh life as the husband and wife must continually row a boat from their island to a neighboring island to get water to water their plants and also provide water for themselves to drink and bathe in.

A harsh life in order to survive, we watch the small family to see how they function as a unit in the course of a year.


VIDEO:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” is presented in 1:35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.  Black levels are nice and deep and the white and grays are well contrast.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition film transfer was created on a Spirit 4K DataCine from a new 35 mm print struck from the original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and splices were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” in Japanese LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

It’s important to note that the film is primarily musically driven and features atmospheric noises, the family laughing but there is no spoken dialogue.  The emphasis is primarily on the musical score by Hikaru Hayashi.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the audio commentary by director/writer Kaneto Shindo and composer Hikaru Hayashi.
  • Kaneto Shindo – (7:31) Recorded in 2011 featuring Kaneto Shindo as a greeting for “The Urge for Survival”, a retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
  • Benicio Del Toro – (7:41) A 2016 interview with actor Benicio Del Toro, a longtime advocate for Kaneto Shindo’s work.
  • Akira Mizuta Lippit – (17:11) A 2016 interview with film scholar Akira Mizuta Lippit.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “The Naked Island”.

EXTRAS:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” comes with a five-page foldout which comes with the essay “The Silence of the Sea” by Haden Guest (film historian and curator and director of the Harvard Film Archive).


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Having watched many of Kaneto Shindo’s films, “The Naked Island” stands out for its beauty, its tragic storyline but also the harsh reality for rural farmers.

In the case of “The Naked Island”, the film focuses on a family that live in an island as its only occupants.

The island has been cultivated for farming and the parents often have to go to the nearby island to get water (via rowboat) to plant their crops but also provide water for themselves.  And also to bring their child to school.

The images of a man and wife having to hold heavy buckets on a stick and balanced on their shoulders, making sure they don’t spill a drop is painful, tiring but its a life that these two are able to survive and provide for their family.

Because they do not live in town and are in their own island.  They are isolated from society.

They do not have television, nor are they seen wearing any extravagant clothes.  We watch as the family bathes in an outside bucket, a father making shoes for himself and the children and a life focused on maintaining crops for food and also to sell to people in town.

Kaneto Shindo is able to make the film entertaining as it has a documentary-style of filmmaking.  Watching these two parents planting and watering their crops, enjoying dinner time with each other, bathing outside and functioning as a normal family, but the fact that they live in an island away from the locals and many other people.

As a viewer, a lot of us can’t fathom the harsh lifestyle that this couple must endure daily, but this is their lifestyle living on the land, living within their means and whatever tools they have on-hand.

What’s interesting is when the children catch a fish and the family goes to the city with their kids to sell the fish to a fishmonger to eat it.  And for the two children, seeing shops and also television is rather not interesting for them as the concept of television seems to unphase them.

Of course, as the family are followed for the course of the year and being a Kaneto Shindo film, you can’t expect everything to be all happy-go-lucky.  And tragedy presents itself and provides one of the most memorable visuals and scenes of the film.

I was moved by “The Naked Island” as the film presents stunning visuals and a budget for a film that relied on Kaneto Shindo to fund as the film company was near bankruptcy.

The film features a modern score by Hikaru Hayashi and for the most part, a film without dialogue and its visual presentation of telling a story is rather unique and mesmerizing.  “The Naked Island” is no doubt a cinematic experience.

The Blu-ray release features fantastic picture quality as black levels are nice and deep, white and grays are well contrast and the monaural soundtrack is crisp and clear with no pops or crackles.

Included is a 2000 audio commentary and also special features recorded in 2016, plus a 2011 retrospective video introduction by Kaneto Shindo.

Overall, “The Naked Island” is visually mesmerizing and entertaining considering there is no dialogue in the film.  While filmmaker Kaneto Shindo has a long oeuvre of fantastic films which he directed and wrote, “The Naked Island” stands out for its visual style and storytelling.

Highly recommended!

 

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